Arkansas softball ready to take first step in quest for Women’ College World Series berth

By Dudley E. Dawson
on 2024-05-17 00:23 AM


FAYETTEVILLE – For the fourth straight season, Arkansas’ softball program will host a NCAA Tournament Regional with the goal of ending the season not in Fayetteville, but in Oklahoma City.

There might even be a stop in Stillwater first, but the first order of business for a run to the Women’s College World Series is taking care of things at home.

That quest begins Friday around 7:30 p.m. when the No. 12 overall seed and regional top-seeded Razorbacks (36-16) face Southeastern Missouri (28-24) at Bogle Park.

“It’s just always exciting to be in postseason and on another level we get to host,” Arkansas head coach Courtney Diesel said Thursday. “So getting some extra games in Bogle and getting to play in our fans and getting to stay home and prepare. It’s just exciting.”

The Arkansas-SEMO game will follow 30 minutes after the conclusion of a scheduled 5 p.m. battle between second-seeded Arizona (34-16-1) and third-seeded Villanova (31-22).

The Fayetteville Regional is paired with the Stillwater one that includes fifth overall seed and host Oklahoma State (44-10), Big Ten champ Michigan (41-16), Big Sky champ Northern Colorado (27-24) and SEC program Kentucky (30-22).

The two Regional winners will meet in the best 2-of-3 Super Regional with the highest seed remaining hosting.

“The field is tough,” Deifel said. “I mean, all 64 (NCAA Tournament teams) are tough, and so it doesn’t matter who gets sent to you, they’re going to be fighting for their lives and they’re good. They’ve either won a championship or they’ve competed consistently [and had] a body of work to earn selection. So, it’s tough, and that’s what you expect when you get to the postseason.”

Arkansas has lost 3 of its last four games – two of three to Ole Miss at home in the regular season series finale and then a 3-1 loss to Missouri in the only SEC Tournament game the Razorbacks played.

“The whole thing is a game of inches, but I think what that (Missouri) game did is it sparked something in this team,” Deifel said. “We had some really good practices and really productive conversations. We feel like we’re in a really great spot moving forward for the NCAAs.

“…It was just incredibly productive and just where we are, what we have been through and what we are looking at. I think everything happens for a reason.”

Arkansas is 3-1 against the field – having beaten SEMO 5-0 and 6-5 (eight innings) in the Woo Pig Classic and splitting a pair of 3-2 games with Arizona at Bear Down Fiesta Classic in Tucson.

“I think they are in a completely different spot than where we played them before,” Deifel said. “It doesn’t seem that long ago, but it also seems like a lifetime ago. I feel like we are a different team and they are a different team.”

Arkansas has a pair of top-notch pitching starters in All-SEC first-team selection Morgan Leinstock (13-5, 1.86 ERA) and Robyn Herron (11-8, 1.68).

Leinstock, a graduate transfer from Southern Mississippi, is relishing her first shot at playing in the NCAA Tournament.

“So it has been a dream of mine to come to a Regional so I am super excited,” Leinstock said.

Photo courtesy of Razorbacks Communications

(Last updated: 2024-05-17 00:23 AM)